The World Travel Market 2017 was a true joy to attend, the vibrant and lively visuals coupled with the mass attendance made for an enjoyable and fast-paced couple of days out.
We’ve documented our startup journey from travels largest event, showing you how we found it characterising the small fish in a very large pond.
The WTM provides a fantastic welcoming atmosphere for people to discover travel destinations, trends, technology and most importantly gives the travel business a friendly and approachable platform to flourish. While shows and presentations command the most attendance and attention, not to mention the mascots attracting ques of excited Instagramers and the overheard ‘wooohhh’ of someone experiencing VR for the fifth time that day. It’s the underlying hum of business talk, polite laughter and the occasional flick of a textured egg-shell business card being plucked from the dwindling pile that gives this event its atmosphere and indeed purpose.
It’s almost as if you ignore the sea of smartly dressed and pressed business-bods gliding between booths reigniting working friendships, allowing yourself to be distracted by the oar and colour of the destinations well prepared visual delights. Asia was by the far the most impressive, the colour the food and the helpfulness of this section was truly a pleasure to experience. Their obvious over-effort was well received and complimented by having an impressive crowd on each day of the event.
The WTM provides a generous stage for the big players to flex their muscles, an opportunity for destinations to impress and a map for newcomers to pave their way around the world. As a startup ourselves we had no stage, no army of culturally dressed representatives for support or a tray of local delicacies to entice business and indeed spark conversation (i mean.. what would we bring, a scotch-egg, maybe a meal deal. No, no). Our equipment was ourselves, confidence in our venture and a dusted-off suit jacket packed with recent vista print orders.
As it’s Gomingo’s first year of operation this was (funnily enough) our first big event and chance to speak to potential clients face-to-face, a shadowed necessity often overlooked by the travel sectors digital dependency. We embodied the startup mentality and indeed our opportunity, initiating a tiring yet enjoyable experience wading through the destinations, occasionally surfacing for air before initiating conversation. Discussing our business in this environment gave us the advantage to inform, answer questions and insight keen interest in our venture all in the space of one conversation, which (to those who have done similar) will know is more forgiving and rewarding than a string of emails. You get to see the reaction you hope your product delivers in real time. We found this extremely valuable for knowing what makes your customer tick, instantly sparking ideas for marketing slogans, keywords and adaptations to contracting proposals which we fluttered between us before getting back in the hot seat.
Without shooting ourselves in the foot (finger-crossed) we were amazed at how productive our days were. It provided a welcome change to the occasional full-body stretch before diving back into the digital ocean that spawned us. It was a rewarding experience on so many levels, every conversation was one which urged us to the next.
For us, it was a test. For a business entering the OTA market, we have some very powerful and very dominant competition. We were worried that in such a ‘deal-sealing’ environment that our USP’s would be stript apart and our market-enriching mission statements would fall on deaf ears. This was not the case, we found that business efforts expanded beyond our expectations and led us to some very valuable conversations.
Once we realised that “actually, this is going really well” the event continued to deliver. We managed to put names to faces and actually expand relationships constructed digitally in a face-to-face environment. Highlights being, discussing our API connection with the kind gents at Trivago and meeting up with our first middle-eastern listing Wyndham Hotels. A part of the experience that we thought would be limited exclusively to the solidified ventures and businesses who’ve been attending the events for years.
Our expectations were shattered (in the best kind of way), our confidence uplifted and motivation fully charged. To any startup flirting with the idea of ‘swinging by’ we would urge you to do exactly that. Talking about your business with interested professionals and indeed potential clients are of such a great value it’s almost priceless.
We learnt as much as we gained, our conversations with clients lead to decisive action plans and a wealth of new valuable contacts. Three days is loads of time in the startup universe, the valuable time you could be spending actioning points you know work. As most decisions tend to be risks for startups, taking a few days out of the office was indeed just that. Three days of work that could have been attributed to a guaranteed improvement, but (luckily) this risk paid off. Working as part of a small team delivering ‘achievable’ goals can leave you with tunnel vision. When it comes to ventures and contracting, escape your comfort zone get out there and find out what your targeted customers think, a facial expression speaks a thousand words.
If you’re a startup business in the world of travel let us know what you’ve found useful at events, have you done anything differently and seen results?
Big thanks to the WTM organisers and everybody we spoke to at the event. We will see you next year.